Belleville

Open question following derailment: Why did it happen?

Crews clean up after train derailment

After 11 coal cars derailed Wednesday, crews were quickly putting the area back together. On Thursday they were loading coal onto trucks and dealing with the wreckage as they tried to get Foley Drive reopened.
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After 11 coal cars derailed Wednesday, crews were quickly putting the area back together. On Thursday they were loading coal onto trucks and dealing with the wreckage as they tried to get Foley Drive reopened.

After 11 train cars ran off the tracks early Wednesday, crews were still working Thursday to pick up the debris in west Belleville.

St. Clair County Emergency Management Director Herb Simmons said Foley Drive in Belleville would remain closed throughout Thursday, and that it would possibly be reopened Friday for traffic.

Foley Drive, which was closed near Frank Scott Parkway West, has been closed since the train derailed about 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Susan Terpay said Thursday that the cause of the accident was still under investigation. She said it could take “a couple of weeks” for officials to determine how it happened.

The train derailment Wednesday morning at Frank's Frank Scott Parkway and Foley Drive in Belleville. Power was knocked out to about 500 people. Railcars were stacked up like children's blocks as emergency crews worked to right the train cars and r

Terpay had said on Wednesday that 11 coal cars derailed, causing utility poles and power lines to go down. The train included 125 coal cars plus three locomotives. No one was injured.

“Norfolk Southern has recovered all of the coal that spilled from the derailed cars. We now are in the process of restoring the properties that were impacted by the derailment,” the company said in statement released Thursday. “Several of the rail cars have been damaged beyond repair and will be scrapped. We are making arrangements to bring in equipment to remove the cars. Date to be determined.”

The rail line was reopened a little more than 12 hours after the accident after dozens of workers arrived to replace the damaged track and clean-up the debris. Workers were seen Thursday scooping up coal that spilled from the train cars.

As a result of the accident, more than 500 Ameren Illinois customers were without power that morning. Power has since been restored to affected homes and businesses.

A train derailed about 2 a.m. Wednesday in Belleville, knocking out power for many residents and shutting down streets.

The Belleville Fire Department said Hulcher Services and R.J. Corman Railroad Group helped clear the tracks and remove debris.

According to the most recent data from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis, Norfolk Southern has been responsible for one of the 60 train accidents that have been reported in St. Clair County in the past five years.

From October 2011 to July 2016, the agency’s data indicated that Illinois has seen 833 train accidents, 60 of which were in St. Clair County. The data excludes highway-crossing accidents.

Bonnie Isler was scared awake when she heard the train derail at 1:40 a.m. Wednesday in Belleville. Her business and residence is right next to the tracks.

Kaitlyn Schwers: 618-239-2526, @kaitlynschwers

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